UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia’s child rights commissioner wanted for war crimes for deporting children from UkraineHe told a UN meeting on Wednesday that the children were taken for their safety and that Moscow is coordinating with international organizations to return them to their families.
Ambassadors from Western countries boycotted the informal UN Security Council meeting and sent low-level diplomats instead. Diplomats from the United States, Britain, Albania and Malta walked out as the commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, began addressing the meeting via video link.
The International Criminal Court last month it issued an arrest warrant for her and Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing them of kidnapping children from Ukraine.
Russia, which holds the rotating Security Council presidency this month, called the meeting to counter what it says is misinformation about Ukrainian children.
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters ahead of the session that the US strongly opposed the briefing and joined the UK in blocking the United Nations from external broadcast of the meeting.
Lvova-Belova “must not be allowed to have an international podium to spread disinformation and try to defend her horrible actions that are taking place in Ukraine,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
An Associated Press investigation, published in October, into Lvova-Belova’s involvement in kidnapping Ukrainians found that an open effort to put Ukrainian children up for adoption in Russia was underway.
It has been difficult to determine the exact number of Ukrainian children taken to Russia. A statement posted Wednesday on Twitter by Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya, said more than 19,500 children had been taken from their families or orphanages and forcibly deported.
Russia’s ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, said the aim of Wednesday’s meeting was “to expose the blatant double standards of the West.”
“Part of this propaganda campaign is the silencing by the West of the fact that in European countries Ukrainian refugees are having their children taken away from them,” he said. Videos were then shown of some women claiming that their children had been kidnapped in Europe.
Nebenzia also insisted that, contrary to Western claims, “there have been no forced adoptions.” She said some Ukrainian children are in foster care and said there were “no obstacles” for them to keep in touch with their families in Ukraine.
The AP investigation found that Russian officials deported Ukrainian children to Russia without their parents’ consent, lied to them that their parents did not want them, used them for propaganda and gave them Russian families and citizenship.
Since February 24, 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine, Lvova-Belova said Russia has taken in more than 5 million Ukrainians, including 700,000 children, all with parents, relatives or legal guardians, except for 2,000 from orphanages in eastern Ukraine. Donbas.
To date, he said, some 1,300 children have been returned to their orphanages, 400 were sent to Russian orphanages and 358 were placed in foster homes.
Lvova-Belova said there has been no official communication with the Ukrainian authorities about the children, but said her office met with representatives from UNICEF, Refugees International and the Red Cross and provided all available information about the children. She said that Russia was coordinating with the Red Cross on reunification.
Sarah Sheffer, vice president of strategic outreach for Refugees International, denied this. She said that Russia has not consulted with her organization about the Ukrainian children.
UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is responsible for reuniting the families, did not immediately respond to requests for confirmation of Lvova-Belova’s comments.
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